I am the mother of four boys and the wife of a former scout, so scouting has been a part of my life for many years. My two older sons each joined scouts in first grade and continued to the completion of the Cub Scout program. My third son is currently happily a part of a fun cub scout den at his school. As a military family, it was great to have a connection to scouting. Cub Scouts was always something the boys could join upon arriving at a new posting and make new friends immediately. It was especially great to be a part of the great American program while we lived abroad, in China.
Over the years, on occasion, friends and family, both straight and gay, have questioned our involvement in scouting, wondering about the Scouts' ban on gays. I gave them an answer I thought was true. I'd say something along the lines of, "that's ancient history." Or, "there's no policy like that anymore." I thought I was giving an accurate answer. I'd never encountered any hint of discrimination in the groups in which we'd been active. I had no idea I was misinformed. I couldn't imagine that such a policy actually existed. I assumed it was from all of the negative press about the occasional pedophile den/troop leader. Why some people mistakenly equate homosexuality with pedophilia, I will never understand. There is no connection.
So, Tuesday, while I was checking Facebook and saw the first posting of an article referring to the BSA decision to uphold their current policy, banning gays from joining or taking any leadership roles in their organization, I was stunned.
Boy Scouts of America made the conscious decision, after a two year long examination of its policy, to continue sending a crushing and caustic message to young Americans: that it is OK to exclude groups of people, in this case, gays, just because of who they are.
How devastating this must be to young gay people and children of gay parents. The Boy Scouts just told these kids that there is something wrong with them and it told straight kids that they should stay away from gay people. I'm not sure I've heard of such a divisive and destructive policy in my lifetime.
If I'd known the policy existed, I never would have let my boys join.
Now, though, 8 year old Bob is fully immersed in the joys of scouting. The program itself is great, it helps kids form strong bonds with their den mates and teaches them life long skills. I even signed on to be a den leader when our great den leader took a job transfer to another state. I really didn't want to take on another volunteer position, but I didn't want Bob's den to end, either. He really loves cub scouts.
So, I felt totally blindsided by yesterday's announcement. In hindsight, of course, I can see that I should have done my research from the start. Had I done so, I would not be in the predicament in which I find myself.
Some people say that it is easiest to change an organization from within, pointing to a decision that would have us remain involved in scouting. In this situation, though, knowing attempts have been made in the past, I doubt that route would be successful.
Someone even pointed out that until last year, the military, our family's bread and butter, had it's own discriminatory policy. True, but leaders changed the policy, years ago, to "don't ask, don't tell," which was also discriminatory, but at least a step toward the eventual change in the policy to one in which gays now serve openly. The point here is that the military evolved. The fact that the Boy Scouts of America didn't change their policy at all... not even a little... toward inclusion, boggles my mind.
Some people say that the little kids, like Bob, don't even know about the policy, so what's the harm in letting them stay and enjoy it. It is tempting to go with that strategy, but someday he will learn of the policy and he'll know we kept him in the group, despite its bigotry. What kind of message will that send to a developing adolescent? I can tell you, it's not a good one. What kind of message does it send to my older boys, who now know of the policy? A hypocritical one, for sure.
If I don't do what I know is the right thing, how can I expect my children to do so? This is a clear case of a teachable moment. It won't be easy for Bob to leave the group. I am sure there will be tears and I hate to be the cause of his sadness, but in time, he will understand. I will phrase it to him in terms he can understand. 'What if the chess club had a policy prohibiting Jewish kids and leaders? You couldn't be in the chess club and you'd miss it. Plus, how would it feel to see your friends still enjoying the chess club while you weren't allowed to join in?' 'What if the gaming club prohibited kids with Autism? Your own brother, Zack, couldn't have joined. Would that be fair?' How is this different?
I spent time looking at the reaction to the decision through comments on Facebook. Many people expressed disgust with the organization's decision, but the other side was more vocal. The hate spewed in the Facebook comments turned my stomach. I realize that the BSA organization essentially validated the feelings of division and intolerance preached by uneducated, closed minded Americans.
I realize that, most likely, the majority of families involved in scouting do not support the policy and life in the packs and troops will continue, status quo. But I'm pretty sure I can't be a part of the pack with this issue at stake.I wonder if I'll be the only one to step down and I wonder how my scouting friends will react when I resign.
Published by Erin Rovak Henderschedt
Erin is a writer, parenting coach, Navy wife, mother of 4, and Autism mom. She blogs at www.BeenThereDoneThatMom.com and www.DeploymentDiatribes.wordpress.com View profile
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